February 7, 2013 by benmblackman
When Mr Blackman asked (well, instructed) me to do a guest blog for his award-winning Red Trouser Days syndicated gravy-train, my first reaction was a sleepy “whaaa?”. I was, after all, in bed. It was late, I was just checking in on Twitter before going to sleep. You know the drill. By the time I woke the next morning, I appeared to have agreed to write a few hundred words – for free – for some guy who runs a charidee.
What in my life could possibly illuminate his? Then his second instruction arrived: “The Kitchen Project”. Of course! He’s just about to embark on a culinary rearrangement, so wanted to glean nuggets of wisdom [aren’t they usually pearls? Ed.] [Shut up. Who’s writing this anyway?].
So here is my To Don’t List. Oh, the lessons I’ve learned. I’ll be much better next time. THERE WON’T BE A NEXT TIME.
1. You need a Gantt Chart.
It all started last May. That is ten months ago. An elephant could have conceived, grown Dumbo and given birth in that time. Yes, we moved a wall, which needed an RSJ, and a couple of extra doors, but TEN MONTHS? If you’ve seen the film Grosse Pointe Blank, you know I’m saying that in the style of the “ten years??!!?” scene.
You need a picture telling you that before the doors can go in, you need to order doors. Not rocket science, but – dammit – terribly useful when you have a builder grinning charmingly at you explaining that he can’t put the doors in because he hasn’t yet ordered the doors.
This needs to be out in the open before you start. If your builder can’t or won’t, for instance, lay a floor, you need to know that the people he asks to do it are not (a) 94 and infirm or (b) incapable of laying floors flat. Yes, you heard correctly. One of the important things about laying a floor is that it is flat. Oh, and at the right height. The team that laid our (first) floor managed to get both those crucial things a bit wrong. Well, a lot wrong. It was too high and, as if to compensate, drooped at the edge as if the floor had completely lost interest in the whole darn thing. Oh, and the best bit? They couldn’t just rip it up again, because they’d carefully laid it on the new underfloor heating, so they spent days gently tapping the floor with toothpicks as if they were Leicester archaeologists hoping not to damage Richard III.
3. Don’t get Seduced by Fancy Curves.
Now, I like a curve. You can get kitchen units that slink round corners and need to be stroked. When your builder says he likes them too, and orders them, and then offers to make the new wall go all curvy too, you say yes. I said yes. Then you have the small problem of fitting a straight bit of skirting board round a sexy curved wall. My builder approaches any problem he finds tricky in the age-old way a schoolboy views dreaded homework. He procrastinates. He spent days doing anything but these flipping skirting boards. Yes, they look lovely NOW, but frankly maybe not worth the lip-biting worry of them being impossible to make.
4. Believe in Yourself.
When I decided I wanted a new kitchen, I drew a plan of my ideal space on a piece of A4 in pencil. Because of my builder’s famed procrastination techniques (see point 3), we had months before he even started to tinker with the drawings. After the 17th draft, we had something that looked like my picture. It had been primped by ‘kitchen designers’ and ‘computer software’. Each time I saw a new one I held up my (now limp and tear-stained) piece of paper and asked if it could be like that. I felt as hopeless as Chamberlain must have felt in 1938. It’s your kitchen. You know what you want. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise.
5. Don’t become a Kitchen Bore.
As the pile of brochures grew ever higher in the corner of the room, I saw my friends’ eyes glaze politely as they realised they’d have to spend another evening discussing relative merits of pewter or antique brass finish on door furniture. I was a kitchen addict. I needed my fix of silestone vs. granite tops and I didn’t care who got hurt. I can confess now, as we near completion, that I went cold turkey and have never looked back. (And did you know our new fridge-freezer can accommodate a whole cold turkey …)
So, Ben, heed my warnings, if you don’t want to age prematurely after having spent [£REDACTED] and months of your life on something that should have been so simple. Decide on a budget. Double it. Weep. Gnaw your knuckles and enjoy the splendour in which you’ll cook lentils for months, because that’s all you’ll be able to afford.
Isabel Rogers is a Writer, Mother, and owner of varied menagerie. She used to be a cellist and has recently achieved a hairstyle. Follow her on Twitter @isabelwriter Read her Blogs at http://isabelrogers.org/